Hello Ebi! Hello Fam!
Last night I thought about what I wanted to share this week. My mind rocked back to my first public reading. It was last summer, and I was in the process of doing a fundraiser to promote my new book Amachi’s Hope. To say I was nervous was putting it lightly.
For weeks I was trying to figure out the best excerpt to share with the crowd. One that would truly draw everyone in and, of course, make them interested in purchasing my book and discovering my other characters. After much deliberation, I decided on this:
I can feel it. A bone-deep weariness that signals the approach of a dream–not the sort
filled with whimsy and wonder mind you, but one that is tainted by foreboding. It is minutes
before midnight, moments before my ojo ibi. Another birthday whose significance now holds
little meaning except for one reason: every year, I receive a warning of what is yet to come. I try
to fight off this feeling, fed up with the complete control it has over me. But I know it is a waste
The Orisa, my gods, illuminate the path before me in a humid, opaque jungle. I lean
heavily on the Iroko trees as I move closer to home. Their sturdy, copper-brown trunks
support my fatigue-ridden body. As I stumble through the threshold of my dwelling, I barely
make it to my beedi before my legs give out, and I fall into a restless slumber.
I awoke and found myself sprawled out in the middle of a forest floor. At first, I could not get
my bearings. Overloaded by the sounds and scents around me, I sat up quickly and looked
about in a frantic attempt to gain some equilibrium. Nightjars churred for their mates, and the
musky scent of a family of civets permeated the air. As they partook of their repast, a growl
carried itself to my ears, raising tiny bumps on the back of my neck.
I slowly stood up and urged myself forward. The light of the moon barely touched the
forest floor, which made walking hazardous, and though the soil beneath my feet felt damp, I
walked with the familiarity of someone who knew this land. But that did not weaken the fear.
To comfort myself, I rubbed my hands along my slender arms. The tiny hairs upon my
skin raised, and sentinel-like trees peered down at me from their great height. Suddenly, my
confusion lifted like a mist, and all became clear. I was dreaming, but I was not alone.
I could hear it, a voice in my head.
As my pace quickened, the dense foliage before me parted. At the end of the path stood a
small ile whose smooth, red-clayed walls and palm-thatched roof were illuminated by moonlight. I
was compelled to move on; my belly churned with trepidation. An ear-piercing scream tore through the night, causing me to stumble in my haste. I felt something or someone steady me.
Look, the voice whispered.
Through an oval-shaped window, I watched as a woman struggled to give birth.
Sweat trickled down her young face, and her body shook from the strain of labor. An atijọ
obirin with charcoal-grey hair and papery skin wiped the woman’s forehead with a cloth and
held her hand tightly between her own.
The old woman shouted, “Ti!” With a deep groan and a final push, the spent woman used the last of her strength to bring forth the beginning of a new life. The elder lifted the tiny figure into the air, and the child pulsed from an inner light.
With his first breath, I could feel a shift in the divine energy that surrounded me. The new iye cried with joy as she looked at the babe in her arms. She kissed his nose and stared at the tiny features that would someday, mirror her own, mahogany skin and dark hair tightly coiled hair.
What began as a beautiful moment immediately turned grim. A chill journeyed down
my back, and nocturnal creatures fell silent as a sinister presence emerged from the mouth of
My breath had become short, and my heartbeat a rapid tempo. I reminded myself that I
was only a bystander. However, I felt the need to shift my body out of sight. In this place, I
was not an adult but a child, and what I saw terrified me. The soil blackened, and flora
withered and died as the wraith-like creature moved forward. Its shadowy figure lurked
outside the ile, angrily searching for a way inside. Like an angry rhino, it charged at the home
only to be repelled at every turn. An aura surrounded the refuge, vibrating and releasing a
deep sound when the creature came too close.
Then I heard a rumble in the distance. As I looked up, black, ominous clouds rushed
towards me and brought with them a storm of immense power. I shivered as sheets of rain fell
to the ground feeling like needles upon my tender skin. I watched as the entity vibrated with
glee. Doubling in size, the creature’s upstretched limbs trembled as it drew power from the
storm itself. But its revelry was short-lived. As the creature raised its arms to deliver a mighty
blow, a blinding light burst forth from the ile, striking the entity in the chest and casting the
storm away. The shadowy creature screeched in agony, its wispy form torn in half.
My little body was stiff with fear as I watched the entity struggle to stand. The sight of
its frail body knitting back together reminded me of a pit of black, wriggling snakes. Before
its retreat, the entity’s blood-red eyes connected with my own – something told me I would
see the creature again.
I did not have many people for my reading (it was at a friend’s sports bar). But it was a great experience, and I received a lot of positive feedback and support. If I was questioning whether I would have a following for my book (it’s YA Fantasy influenced by Yoruba culture btw), I did not need to worry.
When I say “public reading,” I don’t mean one done entirely in front of family. They love you, so they might not be critical about what they hear. But a mixed group will have different POVs.
Since then my excerpt has been edited and improved upon. Taking a chance and putting yourself out there is never easy. Whether you’re sharing your work with a critique group, pitching a story at #pitchwars, or starting the infamous query process, you may be opening yourself to disappointment, or you just might open the door to opportunity.
Have you done your first public reading yet? If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts? And if not, share what holds you back!